FIVE POINTS TO PREPARE...
GET READY FOR THE SEASON!
1) CONSIDER YOUR PLANTING DATE FOR PLASTICULTURE STRAWBERRIES
• The planting date for plasticulture strawberries is sensitive to your geographic area.
• The target is to develop three to four branch crowns by the end of the growing season.
• Planting too early will cause the development of too many branch crowns resulting in smaller berry size. Shorter productive lifecycle.
• If you are considering a new plasticulture planting of strawberries, please contact us to pinpoint the best planting time for your area.
• If you are currently planting on plastic, we suggest you evaluate your branch crown development. If you are seeing more than four branch crowns, consider delaying your planting; if you see only one or two branch crowns, consider planting earlier.
• In evaluating your branch crown situation, take into consideration the quality of the growing season. Variation in growing conditions can affect results. Please contact us if we can assist you in any of these areas.
2) GETTING THE BEST PRICE FOR YOUR BERRIES
Marketing and pricing fruit are as important as selecting the best varieties and using the best management practices. Growers are conservative in setting prices even with substantial evidence that consumers perceive berries to have a good value, providing an opportunity to adjust to higher pricing. As you review pricing for 2020, increasing prices is supported by the increased cost of producing these crops. One clear marketing message all growers should be promoting is the health benefits of berries. Scientists have found berries to have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruits (measured as ORAC), with kale and spinach being the only vegetables with ORAC values as high as fresh, delicious berries. To enhance your marketing, email Anne Kowaleck for excellent fact sheets you can share regarding the health benefits of berries.
3) BEAT THE HEAT
The summer of 2019 was one of the hottest on record in the northern U.S. with stretches of time with daytime temperatures in the 90’s. On top of a very moderate winter, its not unlikely to see these same type of temperature stretches this growing season.
Impact of hot temperatures:
• High air temperatures may result in very high leaf temperatures resulting in sunburn and scorching. Sunscald of fruit will increase, especially where leaves wilt and reduce fruit cover.
• High heat will affect pollen production, often reducing viable pollen numbers. Reduced pollination can result in smaller fruit or misshapen fruit.
• High soil temperatures, particularly when growing on black plastic where surface temperatures can exceed 150°F, can damage surface roots, limiting water and nutrient uptake. This is particularly a problem in young plants that have limited shading of the plastic.
Options for moderating the impact of high temperatures:
• In areas with consistently high temperatures, consider using white plastic in place of black plastic. Growers have also seen a moderation of soil temperature with the use of a clean straw mulch in addition to and on top of plastic.
• Water-based (evaporative) cooling can be used to reduce temperatures. Low water volume sprinklers and drip irrigation systems have been successfully used during hot daytime periods for plant cooling. Timing is also a consideration as by turning on your drip irrigation early in the day, soil under black plastic mulch will remain cooler longer during the day.
• On some crops, shading with the use of shade cloth (20-30%) applied during the hottest periods of the day and when the plant is most sensitive to heat (fruit development) has shown benefits.
• Experimentation is being been done with the use of radiation blocks and reflective materials for reflecting away some solar radiation. Radiation block materials are sprayed on plants during high temperature periods. It’s too soon to tell if the use of these materials is consistently effective.
4) ALTERNATIVE MARKET IDEAS FOR YOUR PRODUCTS
Profitably growing berries involves not only work done in the field but marketing and distribution. Growers can be challenged in moving all their berries on slower days during the week such as Monday–Thursday and/or during peak harvest levels. A variety of non-traditional outlets for berries have developed recently that can eliminate this problem for some growers. In addition, a market is starting to emerge for portions of the plant other than the berries themselves–full plants, branches, and leaves. Some popular outlets we have seen:
1. Craft Breweries - according to the Brewers Association, there are over 6,300 craft breweries in the U.S., up from just 2,000 in 2013. At Nourse Farms, we have had good success selling raspberries in bulk at a competitive price. To find micro or craft breweries in your area, go to brewersassociation.org which has an excellent search tool for finding breweries near you.
2. Wineries - with almost 7,000 wineries, a great resource to identify wineries in your area can be found at americanwineryguide.com.
3. Restaurants – based in part on the “Farm to Table” concept, another popular outlet for berries is the restaurant industry. Chefs, particularly in higher end restaurants, have a great appreciation for local berries and are willing to pay a premium, especially for day-neutral strawberries, fall-bearing raspberries and blackberries as well as June-bearing strawberry king berries. A great way to meet and develop relationships with restaurants is through your local chamber of commerce and business organizations.
4. Florists – believe it or not, it’s not just the berries that grab people’s attention. We are seeing more and more interest in the use of portions of small fruit plants in bouquets and centerpieces, particularly during wedding season. Leaves and portions of the cane (with or without the berries), add a new, different and modern look and texture that is becoming very popular, particularly with millennials. Varieties to consider – Chester Blackberry, Eden Red Raspberry, Bluegold Blueberry, and Anne Yellow Raspberry.
5) SPOTTED WING DROSOPHILA (SWD) UPDATE
Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) continues to pose a challenge to growers, with the pressure building as the season progresses. Those of us on the east coast and in the midwest, with hot summer temperatures and wet conditions from time to time, will experience the most pressure. Moisture breaks down the insecticides and the heat increase the rate of reproduction of the SWD.
Particular crops most impacted include:
• Late Season June Bearing Strawberries
• Late Season Floricane/Summer Bearing Red Raspberries
• Mid–Late Season Blueberries
• Day-Neutral Strawberries
• Primocane/Fall Bearing Raspberries
1. Monitor with traps to know when present.
2. Timing of insecticide sprays begins with color. Pesticide coverage is critical. During the day, the SWD hide in the foliage canopy. For maximum control, the application needs to thoroughly penetrate the canopy–especially important for brambles. Rotation of compounds is an important tool for best control and managing resistance. For specifics on possible controls and options for organic growers, contact your local cooperative extension office.
3. Cultural controls are a key part of SWD management. This includes:
a. Exclusion netting and baiting SWD. Some organic growers, in particular, have had success with mass trapping of SWD, as well as the use of exclusion netting.
b. Pruning brambles has become an important part of SWD control. Narrowing rows and thinking out excess canes is an important tool in controlling SWD. Removing foliage from lower canopy increases penetration of insecticides and reduces habitat.
c. SWD has been found to inhabit wooded borders. Treating borders can help reduce pressure. Keeping field perimeters free of weeds will also reduce habitat.
d. It’s critical to harvest all ripe fruit and remove cull fruit from the field every time you pick. Harvested fruit for sale should immediately go into refrigeration.
4. Make use of the many great SWD websites. Including: